Que. plegdes $14M for short-chain marketing

Quebec’s agriculture ministry plans to put up $14 million to support regional diversification projects in agri-food and commercialization of farm produce in short value chains.

Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard announced the funding Thursday at Potager France Marcoux, a market garden operation in Quebec City’s Beauport district.

The farm’s produce is sold either directly to consumers at the farm or at public farmers’ markets, Lessard said, adding that he encourages other farmers to take such a view in diversifying their operations.

The diversification and short-chain commercialization program is expected to offer financial support for producers in regional-level market development.

The goals of the program, the province said, are to help diversify farms and their production to improve their competitiveness; to encourage the ag sector to offer more differentiated products, thus opening it up to new markets; and to bring farmers and food processing operations closer to their consumers and Quebecers.

The province noted that the program follows up on recommendations from the February 2008 report from the Commission sur l’avenir de l’agriculture et de l’agroalimentaire quebecois, which urged the province to define short-distribution marketing channels in which farmers could sell products directly, exempt from marketing board authority.

The report, by former senior provincial bureaucrat Jean Pronovost, had also urged the province to allow producer groups to develop and market differentiated ag products, if those products are sold for higher prices than the base prices negotiated by marketing boards, although the marketing boards would still receive dues on the products sold.

The $14 million earmarked for this program was set aside in the recent provincial budget to be distributed between now and 2013, the province said.

Farmers and marketers interesting in applying for funding under the new program have until Aug. 14, 2009 to submit their project proposals to their regional ministry offices. More information on the program is available online, in French.

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